Experience the spectacular, remote wilderness of Doubtful Sound on our guided day trip. Journey across Lake Manapouri, over the breathtaking Wilmot Pass and into the heart of Fiordland National Park. This is a must-do for nature lovers and explorers alike.
Doubtful Sound is a beautiful fiord; three times longer than Milford Sound and a surface area ten times larger with twisting arms. With its rugged peaks, verdant rainforest and twisting, hidden inlets, Doubtful Sound will take your breath away.
There’s no direct road access, so the only way you can to get to Doubtful Sound is a cruise across the picturesque Lake Manapouri, followed by a bus trip over Wilmot Pass - New Zealand's most expensive (and majestic) road. We’ll pause along the way to experience the dense Fiordland rainforest and view Doubtful Sound glistening below. This isolation makes this fiord a very special place, only those in the know get to see.
Once you arrive, you will board the Patea Explorer for a 3 hour (approximately) cruise on Doubtful Sound - a spectacular pristine fiord. During the cruise, our knowledgeable and friendly skipper or nature guide will share with you their passion for the region. They’re always ready to answer questions, point out landmarks and provide all the information about the varied wildlife you may see, including dolphins, fur seals, and the rare Fiordland crested penguin.
The Southern Express, M.V. Sinbad, Mariner or Fiordland Navigator may replace the Patea Explorer if maintenance or schedules require.
Things you should know
All Doubtful Sound experiences start at our Manapouri Visitor Centre, located at 64 Waiau Street. Manapouri is a 2.5 – 3 hour drive from Queenstown and 30 minute drive from Te Anau.
Ataahua whenua13 January 2023
No adjectives to describe what a taonga this area is. Until you visit you can’t understand the sheer size of these fiords and the cliff faces. We were lucky to see four groups of dolphins who put on a show. Excellent commentary from both boat and bus drivers.kirks73 Nelson, New Zealand, Via TripAdvisor
Breathtaking Experience17 October 2022
Wonderful trip during unseasonable Spring snowstorm. Everything was so well organised from check-in to return to base. Each aspect of the return 3-part journey - boat across Lake Manapouri, coach across Wilmot Pass and the actual Doubtful Sound cruise - was brilliant. Coach Driver Jonny made us feel very safe as he navigated the snow chained coach across the snowy mountain range.MichaelDH, Christchurch, New Zealand, Via TripAdvisor
The cruise was awe inspiring. I’d like to return on a sunny blue sky day but being in Fiordland during a blizzard (at sea level) just made it so impressive. Lots of waterfalls and breaks in the storm allowed wonderful long distance views. Simply stunning!
Superb6 October 2022
A life changing experience. We felt so spoiled getting to see Doubtful Sound in glorious sunshine with incredible service from the crew on board the Navigator and all at Real NZ. Would recommend to all. An escape from reality into a little piece of paradise in NZ.717mackenzier, Dunedin, New Zealand, Via TripAdvisor
Big day out on the fiord!1 July 2022
The whole experience was magical. The scenery was incredible as were the hosts. Their commentary was interesting and relevant. We did not feel like a tourist but a visitor to their own backyards! So big ups to the staff for making the day even more memorable. We were lucky enough to head out into the Tasman sea at the end of the fiord. Wow. Would definitely recommend this incredible day to all our friends and family. ThanksJulie_B, Via Viator
Doubtful Sound23 October 2022
The best experience ever and we have travelled across the world. Sorry it took so long for us to do this trip. So much information given by the crew, very friendly staff on all three portions of the day.402lucyh, Waihi, New Zealand, Via TripAdvisor
Beautiful tour12 September 2022
Very happy with our experience. The staff were friendly and quite funny, particularly the bus driver on the day. The cruise was informative and the captain was excellent in his communication. Highly recommendF8927IQstevenc, Via TripAdvisor
Wonderful journey2 November 2022
This was an amazing experience from start to the end. Our coach driver Dino was an absolute gem, providing live commentaries. The tour comprised of a coach ride to lake Manapouri (2 hrs), on a catamaran in lake manapouri (50 mins), then a coach ride on Wilmot pass (50 mins) and at last a boat ride on Doubtful sound for 3 hrs. Each part of the journey was a different experience.545devikag, Via TripAdvisor
In case you haven't found the information you were looking for, we've put together some of the most common questions our customers ask about our trips. If you need more specific answers, please contact us directly.
From Queenstown to Manapouri by car or coach takes around 2 hrs 45 mins and from Te Anau around 30 minutes. For more information refer to our Driving Times webpage.
Yes, we have plenty of free parking at Manapouri. Daytime car parking is provided adjacent to the Visitor Centre. Overnight car parking is a available on View St, a short 2 minute walk from our Manapouri Visitor Centre.
Milford Sound at the mountainous north end of Fiordland National Park is the classic fiord - a deep water inlet between steep sided high mountains. Milford Sound is a middle-sized fiord at around 13 kms in length and it is famous for its dramatic scenery, especially Mitre Peak. This fiord is the most accessible of Fiordland National Park’s 14 fiords and it can be reached by bus, car or flight connections from Queenstown.
Doubtful Sound is located in the heart of Fiordland National Park where the mountains are still very impressive but not as high as Milford Sound. Doubtful Sound is three times longer and has a sea surface area roughly ten times larger than Milford Sound. Its three arms are Hall, Crooked and First Arm. It is famous for its wilderness scenery and wildlife sightings. To get to Doubtful Sound visitors first take a launch trip across Lake Manapouri and drive over Wilmot Pass.
Visitors with enough time choose to visit both fiords as they have different characters.
Fiordland’s weather is what gives the region its unique character. Rainfall is what makes Fiordland a land of lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls and fiords. Visitors should always be prepared to enjoy some rainfall during their stay. It is recommended to bring sensible clothing for cool and wet weather to fully appreciate your stay.
The temperatures you can expect in the different seasons are as follows:
Many say you have not seen Fiordland unless you have seen it in the rain. When it rains in Fiordland the landscape is dramatic - rock faces stream with waterfalls, mist hangs around the tops of the mountains and rivers and streams rage. From a dry comfortable vantage point on the bus or boat, this landscape is spectacular for sightseeing.
While we cannot guarantee you will see wildlife, sightings of fur seals are reasonably common in both Doubtful and Milford Sounds. A pod of bottlenose dolphins resides in Doubtful Sound so you have a good chance of seeing these fascinating mammals, and in Milford Sound dolphins are occasional visitors. In both sounds the rare Fiordland crested penguin can at times be observed.
All prices and transactions on the RealNZ website are in New Zealand dollars (NZD). This is specified on the Terms & Conditions page.
Our staff are trained to deal with incidents and in case of an emergency you should listen to their instructions.
We have a portable defibrillator on each of our overnight cruise vessels (Milford Mariner, Milford Wanderer and Fiordland Navigator).
In addition to this we also have portable defibrillators at the following locations:
• Milford Sound Visitor Terminal
• RealNZ Visitor Centre, Manapouri
• Cavern House (Te Anau Glowworm Caves)
• Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant, Walter Peak
• TSS Earnslaw Vintage Steamship
• Stewart Island Ferry (Bluff - Oban - Bluff)